In my youth a pumpkin was for carving and squash came in a bottle with the word Robinsons on the front. Now I’m older and much more food aware I use squashes in cooking often. They are easy to grow and very versatile.
Butternut squashes are around all the time it seems so this recipe references them but feel free to substitute with any hard squash or pumpkin you have bought or grown. Turks Turban squashes, onion squash or the delicious Crown Prince are all varieties I have grown and recommend.
Anyway, the recipe. Now this is a recipe I make often so therefore have no real recipe. Ill give it my best shot but you may need to tweek for your own taste.
Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 onion finely sliced
- 1 large butternut squash chopped (don’t bother peeling)
- 250 ml milk
- 500 ml stock
- olive oil
Preheat the oven to 225c
Chop the squash into large chunks, deseed but don’t peel. The peel comes off after roasting and peeling a squash is a waste of energy and perfectly good swear words.
Place the chunks of squash onto a solid baking tray, drizzle with oil and season well with salt and pepper.
Roast for 45 minutes to an hour. A skewer needs to slide in and out of the flesh with little resistance.
Leave to cool whilst you begin the soup proper.
In a large saucepan gently cook down the onions until they are a sticky golden unctuous mess.
Peel the now cooled squash and add to the pan along with the milk and half the stock.
Bring up to a simmer, and cook for five minutes or so. Either use a masher to break up the squash to give you a chunky soup or use the immersion blender for a smoother soup.
Thin down to your preferred consistency using the remaining stock.
There is usually lots of this but it freezes well. Why not use washed out milk bottles to store your spare soup. Only fill 3/4 full though. Remember water expands as it freezes (turns on teacher mode.)
This recipe can be pimped with all manner of bits and bobs. A rasher or two of crispy bacon, depth charged with a few cubes of mozzarella, scattered with crispy fried shallots or just adorned with a huge hunk of freshly made bread. Actually a rasp of nutmeg would do the trick come to think of it.
Things are bigger in Texas. I picked up my habit for indulging in margaritas in a Mexican restaurant called Esparsas. They came in fishbowls and were lethal. Over the past twenty years or so I’ve refined my recipe and tweeked it very little. A top shelf margarita is were its at for me. Gold tequila, Cointreau and lime, over ice.
However tonight a blood orange winked at me from the fruit bowl and I had an idea.
blood orange margarita
2 measures tequila
1 measure Cointreau
1 measure blood orange juice
1 lime cheek
Rub the lime cheek over the rim of the glass and dip the glass in salt. Shake off any excess.
Put the other ingredients into a shaker or pint glass over the ice and shake.
Pour into the margarita glass, add a little crushed ice. Serve with the lime cheek or a slice of blood orange.
Don’t over indulge. These are dangerous!
22nd of February is National Margarita Day. This is how I’ll be celebrating, although there are several Amalfi lemons looking like they might like to join the party!
I do love a doughnut. Simple ring ones, glazed ones, jammy sugary ones and now creme egg depth charged ones. I know this could be seen as a surfeit of riches and quite possibly guiding the lily but why not combine two of my favourite things into one?
425g plain flour
180 ml warm milk
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp lard or butter
60 ml warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 bag mini creme eggs.
Pour the milk into a small sauce pan and warm through until it becomes lukewarm. Tip this into a jug and add in the warm water, from the kettle will do, and stir in the sugar.
Whisk in the dried yeast and sugar and leave for ten minutes or so for the yeast to activate.
Sieve the flour into the large bowl of your kitchen mixer if you have one and add the salt. Rub in the butter or lard. If you don’t have a mixer that’s fine but be prepared to get your hands messy.
Once the yeast has activated and left foam on the surface of the liquid whisk in the egg and the vanilla extract to this yeasty mixture.
Attach a dough hook to your mixer; pour the liquids onto the dry ingredients and leave to combine for 2 to 3 minutes. If you are using your hands make a claw shape with your hand and combine the ingredients using a circular movement. Once amalgamated you will need to continue to work this very loose batter for another five minutes. This is hard work but remember the reward is hot fried doughnuts!
Once kneaded, cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and allow to rise for an hour in a warm draught free place.
Tip the risen dough out onto a floured surface and pat out. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions.
Place an unwrapped mini creme egg into the dough and totally enclose the egg.
Leave to rise again for a further 30 minutes. Heat 15cm depth of vegetable oil in a deep saucepan. Fry the doughnuts on one side until golden, flip over and fry on the other side. They will puff up as they fry. Drain on kitchen paper. Toss in caster sugar. Allow to cool slightly before eating.
I often make biscuits and bars for packed lunches. Sometimes it depends on what needs to be used up in the fruit bowl, (banana crumble bars) or it might be seasonal, (gingerbread stars). Yesterday I went for plain and simple shortbreads but jazzed them up by using a heart cutter and some red edible glitter, just in time for Valentines day. You could decorate them with your loved ones name, roll and cut fondant to fit the heart or drizzle them with chocolate. Why not leave them on your workmates desks to raise a smile. Crisp and buttery they call out to be eaten with a cup of tea or coffee.
My OH sent me a text this lunchtime to say how lovely the biscuit was. That made them worth the effort if nothing else.
180g unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup of caster sugar
2 tsp warm milk
1 3/4 cups of plain flour
good pinch of salt.
Red edible glitter and more caster sugar for decoration.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C
In the bowl , cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the milk and beat again until combined. Sift in the flour and salt to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed with a hand mixer or work with your hands until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and roll and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in cling film or pop into a ziploc bag and chill for 30 minutes. If you don’t have either squeeze the dough between two plates and chill that way.
Roll the dough1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3-inch shaped cutter. Place the shapes on an ungreased baking tray. Note: The edges of the shortbread are ever so slightly sharper if you chill the shortbreads before baking them. If you have time this is well worth the effort. 30 minutes chilling will do. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Roll the biscuits in caster sugar. Add a little red glitter to the sugar if you want the biscuits to sparkle too!
At the weekend we had the most wonderful beef roast. After some lovely rare beef sandwiches had made their way into our lunchboxes the following day I still had a goodly chunk of beef left. I could have had more sandwiches of course but I really wanted the beef to star in another meal. I mentioned chilli to my teen and she looked half hearted. Then I mooted the chilli dog and her eyes lit up. I rootled around the salad drawer and came up with all the ingredients for home made slaw too so it was a go.
However hard I try, the jumbo hot dog always looks rude in these photos. I’m sorry to those of a sensitive disposition!
- end of beef roast chopped finely
- half an onion chopped finely
- clove of garlic crushed
- dregs from a carton of passata, (about 200 ml) or a big dollop of tomato puree)
- stock or left over gravy from the roast
- 1 green chilli finely chopped
- big pinch dried chilli flakes
- 1 jumbo hot dog per person
- 1 substantial roll per person I used panini buns
- ketchup and American mustard
- white cabbage shredded
- carrot grated
- finely sliced onion
- celery salt
- Mix the coleslaw ingredients in a bowl, add enough mayonnaise to cover and set to one side.
- Soften the onion and garlic in a large pan.
- Add in the beef and stir well.
- Pour in the passata and stock or puree and stock.
- Add in half the chopped chilli and simmer until the liquid is reduced.
- Stir in the remaining chopped chilli and chilli flakes.
- Cook the hot dogs as directed on the pack.
- Open the hot dog bun. Place the hot dog into the bun.
- Top with ketchup and mustard of you like it.
- Pile the chilli on top of the hot dog.
- Pop a big scoop of coleslaw on the side.
- Watch the Superbowl highlights!
The Winter Olympics are about to begin. I love sports of all kinds and I’m getting excited about the events that I’ll be watching. I’m feeling very conflicted too. The Sportsmen and women have been working tirelessly for the last four years at least to be in peak condition. They want to win and do their best however I have a doubt in the back of my mind. Should I be sitting down to enjoy the games? Am I being duped by the shiny, glossy PR machine into thinking one way, when in the background something sinister is afoot. I’m not political with a capital P but I can’t abide discrimination or unfairness of any kind. The whole persecution of the LBGT community in Russia horrifies me. It worries me that the situation is reminiscent of times when other minorities were persecuted and many stood by.
As Martin Luther King so eloquently said, ” We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.”
There are times when you think well I’m only one person what can I do about it?
Well, what I do is bake. If I can bake a cake that people might just make, they could share this cake with friends and use it to to talk about the issues that others face in Russia on a daily basis we could perhaps start a dialogue and at the very least open people’s eyes to the problem. I had set out to try and create a Rainbow Zebra cake. As I’d never even made a two colour Zebra cake before, I think I was trying to run before I could walk. I ended up making a rainbow marble cake. If you are a better baker than me then you can use this recipe to make the cake I failed to produce! As this cake uses oil rather than butter it is very moist and needs to be eaten up fairly quickly so put the kettle on and get your friends round.
A cake for Sochi
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups self raising flour plus 3 tbsp flour.
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- gel colours, red, yellow, green, blue, orange, violet (grape)
) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9″ round baking tin
2) In a bowl whisk the sugar and eggs until pale and frothy. Stir in the oil, milk and vanilla until well combined.
3) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to remove any lumps. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Combine on medium speed 1-2 minutes or until the batter is smooth and lump free.
4) Divide the mixture into six equal parts. I found the mixture divided up into about 6 US cup measures. Colour each bowl a different colour. Go easy to begin with, you can add more but taking colour out is impossible. Gel colours darken on standing I find and are more vibrant when the cake mix is cooked too.
5) Put the coloured batter into six separate piping bags. Pipe the mixture into the prepared tin. Release your inner Jackson Pollock as you do so. If you want to attempt a zebra cake then I suggest you research this by following the link.
6) Bake the cake in the centre of the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Ice with glace icing made with lemon juice. Make enough to cover the top of the cake fairly thickly to represent the snow on the mountains of Russia.
Put the kettle on, get your friends round for the opening ceremony and start asking some tricky questions.
To celebrate the fact that Knorr’s Gravy Pots have been awarded Product of the year in the Gravy and stocks category at the Product of the Year awards, I was lucky enough to receive a Sunday Roast Hamper. This included everything I needed for a Sunday roast. Several varieties of gravy pot featured in the hamper of course. The beautiful piece of beef had to be the star of the show but we all love gravy in our house especially when poured generously over a big piece of Yorkshire pudding.
I treated the beef very simply. Several shallots were sliced very thinly and placed in the bottom of a large roasting tin. The beef was laid on top and generously seasoned with salt and pepper. The fat cap on the beef was smeared with a mixture of whole grain mustard and horseradish sauce. The beef was then roasted for 30 minutes at 240c and then a further 25 minutes at 180c. The beef rested under foil and a tea towel for another 15 minutes to give fantastic rare roast.
Whilst the beef roasted the potatoes, parsnips and carrots were peeled and par boiled. A good spoonful of dripping was added to a tray and the roots were tumbled in to bake together until crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Roasting carrots enhances their sweetness and the little char on the edges is wonderful. A big portion of broccoli topped the meal off nicely. Thank you Knorr for asking me to join in.
As I said York shires and gravy are a vital (essential) part of any roast beef dinner in our house. I tend to make one huge Yorkshire and share it out rather than make individual ones. Here is my recipe.
Huge Yorkshire Pudding
2 large free range eggs
125g plain flour
1/2 pint milk
a large dollop of beef dripping
1 large deep roasting tin
- Pre heat the oven as hot as it will go.
- Whisk the eggs and the flour together.
- Stir in the milk until all combined.
- Season with the salt.
- Put the dripping in the pan and place in the oven until smoking hot.
- Transfer the batter to a jug.
- Open the oven door, slide the roasting tin out a little way but try not to remove from the oven.
- Pour the batter into the hot fat.
- Slam the tin back in the oven and leave for 25 minutes until puffed up and crispy.
Gravy as I said is vital for this dish. I use the gravy pots as a base to my gravy and then add to them but they are brilliant just as they are. What I love about them is that they need to be cooked out. I know this takes longer than just pouring boiling water onto granules but the flavour and lack of flouriness is important to me.
- 1 beef gravy pot
- shallots from under the beef roast
- warm water used to deglaze the roasting tin
Place the water into a pan, whisk in the gravy pot. Bring up to the boil slowly whilst still whisking. Simmer for a minute. Add in the crispy beefy shallots, stir and serve over your Sunday dinner.
I was not paid for this post and all views and recipes are my own.
My version of a PJ day is to pop on an apron and spend the day in the kitchen baking.
Yesterday was one of those days. The rain cascaded down the windows, wind howled around outside and the teen was watching vacuous movies in the lounge. M was away so I had to make my own entertainment. What’s a woman to do but bake?
The sourdough loaf was cooling on the rack, the pastry for my Australia Day pie was resting in the fridge but I still had some get up and go remaining. The cake tin was empty so a cake it was then. I have been using a number of products from the Sainsburys basics range and this recipe uses their eggs and butter.
A traybake is easier to portion when it comes to packed lunches. I have made the cake before but the icing is a variation of a chocolate fudge icing recipe I use often. The whole thing worked really rather well.
Ingredients – cake
175 g basics butter,
175 g caster sugar,
175 g Self Raising flour
75 g walnuts chopped
3 basics eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsps coffee granules in 1 tbsp boiling water
75 g butter
2 tsps coffee granules in 1 tbsp hot water
250g icing sugar
walnut halves to decorate.
- Preheat the oven to 180c
- Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm tin.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time. If the mixture splits add in a tbsp of the flour at this point.
- Stir in the coffee mix.
- Fold in the flour, baking powder and walnuts until well combined.
- PLace in the tin, level and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cake has shrunk away from the sides of the tin.
- Leave to cool in the tin.
- Make the icing.
- Melt the butter in saucepan and remove from the heat. Stir in the dissolved coffee.
- Beat in the icing sugar a little at a time to prevent lumps and until the icing reaches a thick fudgy but pour-able consistency. Depending on the temperature in the kitchen this may take a little more icing sugar or a little less.
- Smooth onto the cooled cake, mark the lines using the tines of your fork. Decorate with walnut halves.
- Try a test piece with a cup of tea. Fill up your cake tin with the rest.
I’m still playing about in the kitchen trying to make my packed lunches much more interesting and significantly cheaper. I’m still using the Sainsbury’s basics range too as much as I can. Looking at the contents of the little tubs of leftovers in the fridge I found the following. Cold potatoes, half an onion, a few olives and a slice of ham. Now with the addition of an egg that lot screams fritatta or a tortilla. Not having a small pan deep enough to make a proper tortilla, I was really worried I’d end up taking a slice of omelette in my lunchbox. I needed a way to contain the eggy deliciousness. I could use pastry but didn’t fancy a quiche. As I reached for the peppers to add to my omelette, a thought struck me. Could I bake my tortilla in the pepper? Well there was only one way to find out!
Ingredients (makes 2)
2 basics peppers tops removed and deseeded
2 basics eggs – beaten
2 basics mushrooms chopped
2 cold waxy potatoes chopped
small amount of onion finely chopped
1 clove basics garlic
small piece of ham chopped
small knob of butter
salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200c
- Remove the top from the pepper and deseed. Place peppers in an oven proof dish.
- Melt the butter in a small pan and fry off the onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft. Allow to cool.
- Beat the eggs, stir in the potatoes, ham and the cooled oniony mixture.
- Salt and pepper the interior of the peppers.
- Spoon the mixture into the peppers, place the lids on top and slide into the oven.
- Bake for 35 minutes.
- Eat warm with a crisp cool green salad or cold with a hunk of bread as a tasty lunchtime meal.
I added olives to my tortilla as I had them. This dish uses up what ever you have to hand. Spring onions, fresh herbs, tomato. You decide, it’s your lunch!